Microsoft Outlook.com: Need to Know

We take a look at the key features including the streamlined interface and social networking integration...

Can you preview documents within Outlook?

Yes. Users will be able to preview documents thanks to the integration of Office Web Apps. This will make it possible to view and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote documents directly from your inbox.

Outlook - Preview

How does the social networking interaction work?

It is possible to connect to the major social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. This allows you to import all your contacts and start conversations directly from within the Outlook pane.

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It is also possible to tweet users or write on a Facebook wall directly from Outlook. Simply go to the People menu, click on a contact to interact.

Outlook - Social networking

What about Skype?

Skype integration is not yet available, but Microsoft plans to launch a plugin soon. The plan is to allow users to carry out video calling from within Outlook, even if they don't have the program installed on their desktop.

Outlook - Skype

Are there any business benefits?

The webmail service will provide familiarity to business users who use the desktop Outlook client. For example it is also possible to set reading panes so you can preview emails.

The ability to sync contacts across social networking sites is valuable and Outlook's "Quick View" feature which pulls in emails will be invaluable for those who receive hundreds of emails per day.

Skype integration will be useful for those who work remotely or travel and need to contact family, friends or colleagues.

Should you upgrade?

In a word yes. The simple interface looks great and the integration of social networking means you can sync all your contacts easily.

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Outlook.com is available to try now. Having been logged into our Windows Live account, we found simply typing Outlook.com into our address bar took us directly to the new client.

Hotmail users can click "Upgrade" in the options menu. Users should still be able to send/receive email from @hotmail.com or @msn.com or @live.com addresses.

Alternatively, it is also possible to set up a dedicated @outlook.com address.

UPDATE 03/08/12, 4.30pm: Some users have experienced issues with automatic upgrading or confusion around the changes as reported by IT Pro here. Microsoft has yet to respond to the matters raised in the story/related user forums.

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